I was nine and he was ten. His name was Henry Thomas; or maybe it was Thomas Henry. Anyway, it was a name that was as good forwards as backwards, and nearly the same age as me, he lived somewhere a couple of blocks up the street, I wasn't sure exactly where. Since my beginning of elementary school just three years ago, we both daily met the bus to school at the same stop, though we approached that corner from the different directions where we lived.
He was an unsmiling, serious boy but one whose handsome scowl was very attractive to me indeed. As a fifth grader, I noticed he had a long, slender neck like a dancer's and a delicate and aristocratic chin. His posture was upright and perfect; he moved his body with a grace that was unfamiliar in a boy, nearly gliding as he walked. His lips hid a slight overbite and were like Cupid's with a perfect "v" cleft that made him look like an angel and frankly would have been more in place on the face of a girl. His jaw line was long and straight, his skin fair and clear, brown hair thickly layered, and his large round eyes were a cloudy hazel-green. He showed his expressions not with his mouth, because I never saw him smile, but with those eyes and by his uncanny ability to move either eyebrow independently of the other. I thought this was a very neat (and sexy) trick, one that I couldn't pull off myself, no matter how much I practiced in the bathroom mirror.
I would steal quick looks at him at the bus stop and when we rode on the bus together. Occasionally I sat alone directly behind him so I could watch the reflection of his face for twenty minutes straight without him knowing as he gazed out the window on the way home. I noticed he always sat alone, always looked absorbed in thought, blinking his big eyes; me watching his long eyelashes come together then pull apart, staring out the window without ever smiling. He would prop his perfect chin on a folded hand, his slender fingers folded down and underneath; his fingers were long and lithe like a piano player's, arms and legs long like a lead in the ballet. When he swallowed, one could see the slightest, tiniest shadow-hint of an Adam's apple rise and fall in his venerable, exposed throat, and he'd often run his long fingers back through his honey-brown hair and toss his head in a way that I found strangely sexy, if I can use a word that I didn't really understand when I was eleven. I didn't know anything else about him, though the older boys would sometimes call after him "Henry Thooooooo-mas... Thomas Hennnnnnnnry" and they would laugh when he looked away and his neck and cheeks grew red with anger. I didn't know if he had any friends, but one day as I stared at him from across the aisle on the bus, I realized how much I wished he could be mine.
That is why I reacted with such surprise the day he turned to me as we waited in line to board the bus and hissed angrily in my face, "Sissy... You are a sissy. You carry your books like a girl and you walk like one too." I drew back in shocked surprise. His face was right in mine, his nose nearly touching my nose. His gray green eyes stared right into mine, but somehow looked past me--right through me. I backed off a step in surprised fear. I had never had contact with him before, and never dreamed he had even noticed me before, or that he would be mean to me if he had. "You are afraid of me, aren't you? You pervert," He hissed through clenched teeth. "You and your stupid ugly freak-eyes".
My breath caught in my throat. He had noticed my shameful eyes! Born with a defect, I had birthmarks inside the irises of both of my eyes. I kept them so carefully hidden, I had thought. How could he have seen? For him to have noticed he would have had to been staring directly into my eyes--and as far as I knew, he had never even looked my way before. I cast my eyes to the ground and the color drained from my face. "You are a homo pervert, freak," He spit meanly towards me and turned and boarded the bus before me.
I was truly shaken. If I had been secretly observing him, he must have been also secretly observing me too. But while I was admiring his handsome good looks and wanting to be his friend, he had been instead despising me in return. I was confused because I did not know what some of the words he used meant. "Homo" and "pervert" were words I had never heard before, but I knew they weren't good names to be called. I felt so sad and hurt inside--I did not have words for the painful emotions I felt when I learned that this secret friend I coveted was instead a secret enemy.
We had been sharing the real estate at the same bus stop all through elementary school, and never once had we spoken until that moment. It had been only in the past year or so that I had begun to notice his beauty and grace, coinciding with my own early pre-pubescent sexual awakening, that for the first time was stirring inside making me feel suddenly oddly attracted towards other boys, especially those slightly older than me. I didn't know what to make of these feelings, they felt so warm and right and so pleasant and good, but at the same time I was wary of them. There was something not quite right about them being there, and I knew. I enjoyed them when they tickled me, but then worried about them after they passed. Mostly I just left them alone, figuring that in time they would make sense to me, or perhaps they would simply go away. For the time being, I treated them with a sense of shameful wariness and tried not to think about them too much. But when I looked up "pervert" in the dictionary, I was filled with a sudden shame as I realized he surely must have known what was going on inside my head. Shockingly it seemed to fit, describing my private thoughts that until then I believed had been secret--but obviously were not, since he clearly knew what I was.
"Give Brad the ball!" one of the older boys had shouted one early morning at the bus stop. The older boys were throwing a football, and I watched from within the pack of smaller kids who stood to the side. The older boys often played rough games at the bus stop, even though this was not allowed. The school's rules were clear--that we were all to stand together on the corner, waiting quietly on the sidewalk until the bus came at exactly 7:35 each morning. Boys were not allowed to run in the street or on the nearby lawns, and rough games were strictly forbidden. But boys are the same the world over; rules are for others and not intended for them, and so every morning a ball game of some kind broke out. The oldest boys, Freddy and Michael were the ring leaders, and frequently got in trouble for leading the disobedience. More than once the bus driver caught them scrambling in the street; far too many times to ignore, and all of us had received strict lectures on the bus several times as a result. Michael and Freddy were regularly called to the principal's office and could be seen serving after school detention, sitting scowling one in her office at either ends of on long bench reserved for bad boys. But still the morning games continued. "Give Brad the Ball!" the older boy cried again that morning. "You won't believe how far he can throw it!"
The other big boys scoffed with disdain. Rather small for my age I was known as a good boy, probably far too good, one who would never have been caught dead breaking the rules by running with the older boys in the street. I was always completely ignored by the older boys as they chose sides and played these games each morning.
"No, seriously, you won't believe how far he can throw. Try him!"
Bobby, one of the biggest and roughest boys picked me out of the crowd. "Brad, come over here. Let me see you throw the ball." I was shy, as I didn't want to be noticed, and even more than that I was afraid, because I didn't want to break the rules. When I hesitated and did not come forward, Freddy called out "He's chicken... he doesn't want to break the rules. He's afraid he'll get in trou-ble." He sang the last word, making it long and teasing.
"Don't be a baby, Brad" called Bobby. "Just once, no one is going to know. Throw the ball to Michael. Throw it past Michael. Throw it as far as you can. " And with that he flipped the ball directly at me.
I had no choice but to catch it or it would have hit me in the face. Turning to my right I saw my small sister looking at me. She didn't say a word, but I knew that she was petrified that I would cross the line, step into the street, break the rules and automatically become one of the dull-eyed, slack-jawed after-school, bench-sitting criminals we both feared. I looked away from her, and then staring down the block at Michael who waved his hands urging me to throw, I stepped forward into the street, wound up, and let the ball sail.
Half a block away, Michael started backing up, then turned and watched the ball fly ten feet over his head.
There was just a moment of hushed silence. "Wow", finally intoned one of the older boys under his breath and standing nearby. "He threw that further than any of us." And it was true, I could. I wasn't a really fast runner or especially coordinated and good at any games, but somehow I could throw a ball seemingly as far as I wanted. It was my only athletic talent to speak of. (In fact, by high school I could throw a baseball from the centerfield wall to home plate in the air, without a bounce, around 400 feet. Sadly, I couldn't hit a pitched ball to save my soul, and so I was never asked to play centerfield, or any other position for that matter. My ability was good only for its sideshow value, it seemed.)
"Give it to him again!" ordered Bobby. And again with the ball in my hands, I would up and threw in Michael's direction. This time I delivered a strike into Michael's hands over a hundred and fifty feet away. Seeing that this was no fluke, the boys burst into excited chatter. "How did you learn to throw like that?" asked one. "How far can you throw it if you really want to? ", asked another. I blushed and said that I didn't know. Overcome with my sudden rise to celebrity from having been an unknown a moment before, I turned and smiled and--accidentally looked right into the face of Henry Thomas. He wasn't smiling; his eyes were narrowed and his fists clenched. I recall feeling surprise, as this was the first time he and I ever had made eye contact.
I recall the bus came right then, and that there were no repercussions to my aberrant, rule breaking behavior from that morning. The older boys still would ask to see me throw sometimes, but I wouldn't run with them in the street and so I faded back into anonymity, and that was just fine with me.
It wasn't so long after this that Henry Thomas began to pick on me. I'd be standing in the bus aisle waiting to unload at the school and I'd feel his hot breath on my neck and hear him hiss into my ear "funny-eyed freak... ...you pansy!" I would turn to face him and stare up into his eyes, a scant half-inch above mine. He was not a big boy, and he was so handsome and clean cut that it still shocked me every time his meanness would escape his lips like this, hurled at me. "Stop it", I begged. "Why don't you like me? I'm not mean to you." But my words served only to make him angrier. Poking my chest with his long thin index finger he would only say "You homo. Pervert. Sissy boy."
More than anything, I was confused. He had no reason to hate me, and I didn't want to hate him. But I became afraid of him, trying my best to avoid contact and the inevitable confrontation that might result. Secretly, I wanted him. I wanted him in a confusing way... I wanted to see him with his shirt off, to know what kind of underpants he wore, to have him sleep over, to kiss his cheek, but especially to smell his sweat. I wanted to know which cartoons were his favorites, if he cried when he was sad, if he was scared like I was during late night thunderstorms after bedtime. I couldn't understand or explain any of this at eleven. I just knew that he made me feel funny inside... probably just like a pervert is supposed to feel.
Sometime in junior high school the school bus route changed, and the bus now dropped us off after school several long blocks further from home. The walk home now took fifteen or more minutes, and carrying a heavy load of books I have to admit that I didn't look forward to it. It was one of those early spring afternoons where most boys were carrying their jackets, since the day had warmed up so much from when the morning chill had allowed us to see our foggy breath. I was one of the last off the bus, and waking from the bus as it drove away, I heard a voice behind me.
My heart skipped a beat; my breath caught in my throat. He was right behind me.
"Funny-eyed freak, You swing your arms when you walk like a girl. Girly-fairy-boy". His eyes were narrowed his teeth clenched with hate and his cheeks flushed. I still remember his voice; it was a low soprano, maybe just starting to change but not far along. Thinking hard, by now he must have been about 13, and I was just a few months younger.
"Why don't you leave me alone?" I asked with some anger rising in my voice. "I have never done anything to you."
"Oh, sounds like the baby is going to cry," he mocked. You're afraid of me, aren't you? Homo", he sneered, contorting his face and pantomiming like he was crying. "Go play with you sister and the other little girls. That's what you like to do, isn't it, fairy?"
I was suddenly overcome with a rush of anger stronger than I had ever felt. It was true that I often included my little sister in our games. She was small, sickly and frail with a terrible health condition and I looked out for her. The blood rose in my neck, my vision suddenly became as narrow as a black tunnel. Without thinking, I dropped my books, lowered my head and I lunged at him. The next minute or two is etched into my memory with such clarity that today, some thirty five years later I can still dissect the sequence, examining it in my mind's eye nearly frame by frame.
Henry Thomas also dropped his books and putting one hand out in defense, and took a step backward with surprise. I was on him in an instant, delivering a body blow to his chest with my raised forearm, knocking him to the ground, and knocking the air out of him as well. I dived on him and he responded by wrapping his arms around my neck clumsily and together we rolled on the lawn, flailing arms and legs. Pulling away and aiming a blow at his collarbone, I connected it with my fist and with satisfaction heard him cry out. Falling forward, I leaned hard against him with all my weight, pinning him, pressing his cheek on my cheek, his breath mixing with my breath, and reaching up he tried to choke my neck. I pulled his hands away, and butting my head into his chest I heard him grunt satisfyingly again with pain.
We rolled over, and side by side in the grass, and suddenly his face was near mine, his open mouth brushed against mine, and for just an instant our lips touched, a frozen moment where his tongue touched the inside of my cheek for just the briefest second. He lowered his head so it was buried in my neck, and while we still struggled against each other, suddenly my anger had abated and I didn't feel like this was fighting any longer. Now, he wasn't pushing away as much as he was seemingly pulling me closer. We still struggled together, but punches had turned to gropes, and instead of trying to hurt each other we were suddenly holding on to each other for dear life, it seemed. He momentarily ended up on top of me as we rolled in the grass. If anyone was watching us I was completely oblivious.
While I held one slender wrist tightly with my hand, my other hand had slipped between the buttons of his school shirt, and I felt his warm, smooth, naked bony chest, and in a fleeting second my fingers quickly searched and found his soft hollow nipple. His arms that had been wrapped around my neck in a choke hold had moved down behind my back, and now he clasped me tightly to him, holding my body to his, his slender-fingered hands positioned one behind my neck and one in the middle of my back pushing us so tightly together, his pelvis pressed, even grinding against mine. I was suddenly only too content to have him on top of me, and I stopped resisting, and realized with a start that he had groped my pants and was holding my suddenly very stiff boner between his fingers as he thrusted forward. I think I reached down to try to find if he was hard too but I don't remember what happened; I was suddenly overcome by his sweet clean smell that was like laundry soap and baby shampoo. We were in a cheek to cheek death grip, and with his open mouth pressed against my neck, he sucked me in a way that made my loins twitch. Suddenly separating his wet mouth from my neck, I looked right into his hazel eyes to see his pupils dilate; and felt his breaths come in small gasps right into my open mouth. I felt him suddenly stiffen, and a small, hardly audible high squeak came out of his beautiful half-open cupid-mouth, his eyes and mine a scant inch apart. And then he exhaled with relief and suddenly went limp.
It had happened so fast, but what was it? After collapsing in each other's arms for only a scant second, he pushed away from me, scrambled to his feet and climbed off of me, grabbing up his discarded books and without a look back, dashed away without a word, running in the direction of his home as fast as he could go. I wanted to cry out, "wait, don't go, come back!" But instead I heard myself shouting after him weakly, "That's the way, run, run, you coward!" only dully aware of what had just happened, I imagined I had beaten him. But to anyone watching, they would have seen that just before he ran off it had been him on top, not me, and that aside from my first blow, not a single punch of consequence had been thrown or landed. And in the rest of the walk home, I realized that the brief touching of our lips, the fleeting and forbidden taste of his spit, the feeling of his skin, the clean smell of his sweat, the mutual groping of trousers and the grinding of our bodies had caused an incredible release between us in mere seconds. And I realized that I had been strangely aroused too, still smelling and tasting his clean skin and sweat in my nose and his saliva in my mouth.
I could not stop thinking about what had happened; I obsessed about this event constantly over the next few days, and told nobody at all about it, interesting in itself. Normally I would have bragged proudly to my friends about beating up an older boy, but not this time. In fact, I didn't even mention the event to anyone at all. I played it out over and over and over again in my mind, move by move, second by second, trying to make some sense of what had happened there. It was surely a fight, and surely I beat him? But this didn't feel like a victory worth bragging about, or even a victory at all. Instead it felt confusing and lonely and even hollow and sad. I dared wonder if he too was as confused by what had happened as much as me, attracted and conflicted, secretly liking boys as much as I did in a way I couldn't explain. I wondered if we could do it again (but this time without the punching), but at the same time I worried deeply about the wickedness of what I was feeling, guilty because I had somehow liked it and wondering if my aggression was what he secretly wanted from me all along, whether he knew it or not. Wickedly, I craved the touch and taste of his tongue on my lips again, and the very thought of wanting something so depraved sent an icy shiver up my spine. I remember spending a great deal of mental energy trying to think of ways I could kiss his mouth without making it obvious that this is what I wanted to do, imagining practicing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or being near him in the dark in a power failure any number of other absurd circumstances that prevented me from actually admitting to myself that I wanted desperately to kiss another boy.
But mostly I fretted over why he had singled out me as the target of his emotions: his hate and then his sudden strange and twisted affection. I wondered what he saw in me that aroused such anger and yes, lust... in him. In retrospect, though only thirteen, I believe he was gay, and that he realized that he was gay and he knew that I was too. There is something real about "gaydar" and one's ability to sense others' sexual orientation. True, not every gay person possesses it, but I certainly do and I suspect he did as well.
But he never came near me again, Thomas Henry. I eventually stopped riding that bus and oddly, I don't recall crossing paths with him ever again even though we still lived mere blocks apart. I thought less and less about this fleeting, confusing incident as the years went by, until at my twenty-fifth high school reunion someone brought an old yearbook and I opened right to the page where his senior picture was printed. "Thomas Henry" it read, his street address nearly the same as mine. Prize possession: My artistic and creative talents. Pet Peeve: People calling me Henry Thomas." His photo was strikingly handsome and his expression deadly serious, and in his 18-year old visage he looked very much older than the boy I remembered, the one forever burned into my mind's eye as the boy who had taunted me when we were children at the bus stop.
I looked up my photo from that yearbook and placed it next to his, looking at our pictures side by side from some thirty years ago, we looked remarkably alike; in fact I realized with a start we could have easily have been mistaken for brothers. Try as I might, I can never remember seeing him at all after that fateful day, and my memory of his voice remains that clear soprano, just as I had heard it back then. I must assume that after our encounter he had purposefully stayed far away from me for good, not out of fear of me, but rather out of shame for the way he had betrayed himself to me.
I casually asked friends what had happened to him, and perhaps surprisingly, no one remembered him at all, not even that he had existed. Finally, one neighborhood fellow at the reunion told me that he thought Thomas Henry had died some twenty years ago, though he didn't know the cause of death. No one else seemed to care, and because and his death so very long ago and his name was so common, I was unable to find even a single trace of him on the Internet when I began looking in the weeks that followed. How had he died? I needed to know.
Just a few years ago I had attended the funeral for the teenage son of
an executive where I worked. The 17-year-old boy had committed suicide, and the
church was packed with mourners, both classmates of the lost boy and other
business people like me who worked with his father. They filled the huge church
to overflowing, and sobs of anguish occasionally pierced the air, lamenting a
life wasted and the senselessness of the loss.
His father was a ruthless, unfriendly man who loved to shame others that worked under his control. He led through fear and dominance. He was willful and would rarely listen to the opinions of others, let alone ever change his mind, even when clearly he was wrong. When he was right he would ensure everyone knew it, publicly lambasting anyone who had dared oppose him.
The youth's coffin was closed, but picture collages on easels
surrounded it, showing the lad in happy times, surrounded by friends and
family, on vacations around the world, and doing his favorite thing in the
world: acting in his school plays and musicals. I observed his closest friends
huddled together. Their mannerisms and their appearance told me at once, with
my life's sense and experience, that these boys were gay. And even though I had
never met the deceased boy I knew it then: he was gay too, he must have been,
and he had surely killed himself because of it.
I loathed being there. But the sudden and completely unexpected realization that his son was gay stunned me like a bucket of ice and water poured over my head. This boy was gay like I was--like I am! I recall being in high school and passionately hating myself and wanting to change and be straight, and I sometimes considered whether or not the world would be better off without me around. I never tried suicide, or even got close for that matter but I admit fantasizing what it would be like if I had had the nerve to try it. And as I sat uncomfortably in that church, my thoughts went immediately back twenty five years to Henry Thomas... Thomas Henry-- from so many years before. I wondered if this too was his fate.
I cannot speak for the universe of gay people, but I can tell you that in my many, many years of therapy I have never met a person who has been successful in "changing" his or her sexual orientation. I am a person who prides himself on being able to do anything I set my mind to, and my list of private and professional accomplishments are numerous. But try as I could, I was never able to change myself to straight from being gay.
So, looking back, I've shared with you that I knew I was different from the time I was four or five years old, and it wasn't long at all after that that I realized that this was the "wrong" way to be, and decided I would not only make my feelings a lifelong secret, but that I would change the way I was and learn to be straight. These are rather heavy objectives for a preschooler, but they were mine.
I remember as far back as kindergarten longing to be close to other boys whom I found powerfully, strangely and intoxicatingly attractive. I also recall my deep attraction to the teenage brother of one of my small friends. I was five--and I didn't know what lust or sex was then, but I somehow already knew that these private yearnings were shamefully wrong and must never be discovered by others. By High School I was seducing other boys, both older and younger than myself, and hating myself immediately afterwards, then swearing to quit cold turkey, failing each time.
I masturbated frequently just like most adolescent boys do, starting just before the age of 13. From the start, my masturbation fantasies were almost always about other boys I longed to be with. In a futile and shameful act, by 16 I promised myself on threat of death that I would only allow myself to continue to masturbate if I thought about girls... and then, unable to keep that promise to myself, I vowed that if I did allow myself to fantasize about other boys, at the very least I would think only about girls at the moment of orgasm. What should have been the wonderful experience of awakening of intimacy for me became a nightmare of self loathing and self-inflicted pressure to change my programming.
I now love and accept myself more than before, but that doesn't mean I am always happy, nor am I always at peace with the road I have taken. My unconscious sexual thoughts, both sleeping and awake, are still completely about guys. I wish I could have a relationship with another guy, but I cannot, not now; not with the life-commitments I have made and have decided to keep. On most days I generally like being who I am. I conceptually realize that being gay is not the same as being diagnosed with a terminal disease; especially not these days.
So what happens to boys (like me) who grow into adults and still can't accept that they are gay?
Doubtlessly many manage though it just fine, able to accept that things aren't ever going to be perfect and simply go along with their lives, the same way that someone might accept inconveniences like poor vision, a club foot or a cleft palate. At the other end of the scale, some are unable to reconcile their guilt and pain and find suicide as the only way out. Some others harbor anger and become abusers of some kind, hurting others as a way to ease their pain. Gay bashing is often carried out by males who are insecure in their own sexuality and have a terminal need to hurt others who remind them of the secrets they carry inside. I have wondered if Thomas Henry was one of these unfortunate people until the day he died.
With this painful conflict central to their being, these men also may form a fused, indelible and perhaps even unbreakable link between humiliating shame and passionate excitement; a combination of physical pain and erotic pleasure that defines their very sexual being. How else can one explain crimes of sexual sadism, committed by people (mostly men) who so closely associate sexual excitement with shame and pain, that they cannot become aroused without it? It seems incomprehensible on a logical, thinking level, but sexual fetishes abound as proof in our world of people who associate seemingly opposite feelings: for example, the pain and humiliation offered by beatings and bondage, with the result being achievement of sexual orgasm.
However, most people luckily are not so extreme, and they simply go through life day to day, conflicted and confused, often unhappy and angry, getting in and out of relationships with both the same and the opposite sex, often behaving badly and perhaps relying heavily on drugs or alcohol to help them get by. Still others end up in affairs with inappropriate partners, much younger or weak, highly dependent individuals they want to nurture and care for instead of sharing a relationship of equals. This particular circumstance was my fate. Like many individuals living damaged lives, I acted out a pattern of inappropriate behavior into my adulthood that was a mute attempt to go back and relive the years of my deepest confusion; like a recurring dream, re-playing out the most confused parts of my complex story over and over again, and each time hoping for a different and better ending. In doing so, I found no shortage of partners whose damaged lives somewhat mirrored mine, ones who were only too willing to participate in my world, younger men (or boys) who found me attractive and were happy to have me care for them.
I recall that in years spent participating in group therapy, women (especially) passed through who were seemed perpetually trapped in abusive relationships. One such woman would join the group, and would tearfully work through separating from an angry and hurtful mate, gaining accolades and applause from the group when she finally made the decision to leave the abusive lover behind. Invariably, within a year or so this same woman would get into a new, very similar, abusive relationship with another man--or with the same man again, and would either leave therapy or in staying, the process would start all over. It boggled my mind that these women seemed incapable of a normal relationship of equals, and further that they could so expertly and quickly choose a new mate so exactly like the last one.
It took me a while, but I realized that I was wired the same way, only with different triggering circumstances. I was seemingly looking again and again for the lost teenage boy I once was, trying to help "him" to see that he was alright inside and hoping he could learn to love himself with my help. And as you have seen, in my stories involving Nick, Westy and Gabriel, I could spot these damaged and needy individuals from a mile away, and like a moth to a flame could not stay away from them, my mentoring friendships becoming sexual with uncanny speed and precision.
So, what advice did I wish I had heeded as a teenager? I wish someone who loved me could have told me, "If you usually think about other guys when you masturbate, start getting use to the fact that you are most likely gay, and learn to accept it, and learn to love yourself the way you are. The sun will still come up tomorrow, and life will go on as before, only you will be a happier person. I promise. The truth will set you free." Perhaps my life would have turned out very differently.
Going back to the case of Thomas Henry, I can conclude that just as I had noticed him, he must have been carefully observing me for some time before our conflict for him to have noticed the minute traits that he called me on. I realize we looked amazingly alike in retrospect, and that he was also in the beginning of his adolescence may have been confusingly sexually aroused by me. I didn't know his family well, but by chance his upbringing (or his moral compass) must have told him that his feelings were improper and must be crushed. The names he called me--"homo", "fagot" "sissy", and especially "pervert" were likely the names he was called himself--or that he used to privately describe himself. That my physical attack on him caused him such immediate and rapid sexual arousal spoke to how close to the surface these feelings roiled. While young boys are capable of having orgasms with the smallest amount of sexual stimulation, our physical fight became a sexual event for him in mere seconds. Thomas had chosen well. I was indeed a "pervert": no more, but no less than he was, and he knew this about me perhaps before I knew it about myself.
Curious as to what had happened to Thomas Henry, I used all my resources to try to find out, yet I hit one cold dead end after another. Most oddly, our high school reunion website page omitted him entirely--listing him neither as "found" nor "missing". Eventually I learned the truth. Thomas was dead. He had died just prior to his 29th birthday in 1988, and though I cannot be 100% sure because nowhere were these words used, facts point towards his cause of death probably being the AIDS virus. At the end, his family shunned him; his obituary apparently did not run in the newspaper, and his funeral and burial were strictly private. For me, trying to contact his older brother for information was fruitless, as he ignored my inquiry quite completely. It was as if even his family wished Thomas Henry had never existed; that if they pretended he never lived, the fact that he had died of this terrible, shameful disease could be ignored as well.
It now made perfect sense to me why he had secretly loathed me as a child. Surely he was as tortured inside as was I, hated himself as did I, and the sixth sense we were both born with told him that we were shamefully alike, even looking nearly like brothers had we stood side by side.
I promised closure in this final chapter. I admit that today, with more than half of my life behind me, the subject of shame over my long-repressed sexuality still causes me anguish that I cannot yet leave behind. My hope is by sharing it all here I can earn some closure.
I remain married to my wife of nearly 25 years for one very simple reason... I love her and we have a life together. We have had babies; we have raised our children, buried our parents, bought homes together, and by now, we have almost paid off our mortgage. We have celebrated and suffered life's events together. Friendships like ours are rare and not easily replaced. We have both realized that the sexual part of a relationship is just a small slice of the wheel of life, and the act of having sex is an even smaller sliver of that. Finally, it has clearly been a mutual decision to stay together, surely not mine alone. She still loves me still, even knowing all my secrets. And that is really all there is to it.
Publishing this story in serial form over a period of months has allowed me the opportunity to correspond with other men who have reached out to me, relating their own stories and finding their lives and emotions mirror mine in some way. They often say to me what I always had thought had been true...
"Until now, I thought I was the only one"